After realising that she tended to gravitate toward books written by men, despite being a female author herself, Ms. Morgan devoted 2011 to reading women's literature and blogged about each book she read. Slowly but surely, a new bias emerged: her reliance on English titles meant that the bulk of her reading list came from English or North American authors, with a spattering of writers from South Africa, Australia and India.
It was time for a new project.
For 2012, the Londoner pledged to read one book from every country by the end of the year, and A year of reading the world was born.
The endeavour posed both practical and broadly philosophical challenges from the very beginning: How would Ms. Morgan read and write about four books per week while maintaining her regular daily life? How would she define nationhood? How would she read books that hadn't been translated into English, and how would she find stories in nations with a culture of oral storytelling? And what makes a book 'from' a certain nation in the first place? With unwavering support from a global audience – some fans even wrote or translated works into English specifically to help her reach her goal – she was able to read and crowdsource her way into workable answers.
The enthusiasm and diligence with which Ann Morgan embraced the adventure has won her a dedicated audience as well as the usual accolades and recognition: interviews, events, and, of course, a book of her own to be published in 2015. It has also brought her a treasure trove of suggestions for glimpses into the essences of every nation on earth, and they didn't stop when the year was through. Last week, one year after the end of her initiative, Ms. Morgan updated her list of literature from around the world based on the feedback she'd received, and while no single book can define a nation, this is as good a place as any to start.